Saturday Road Test – VW e-Golf SEL – “Dad, what’s a gas station?”

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2016 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium

Drive Right by That Gas Station

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – No sooner had VW announced an electrification initiative that is “second to none” promising more than 30 electric new vehicles by 2025 than an e-Golf appeared in the road test driveway.

Volks expects “pure electric” automobiles will eventually account for about 25 percent of its total sales volume. Diesels, well, that’s another matter.

For 2016 VW introduced a lower priced e-Golf, the SE. No navi, parking sensors or auto dimming rear mirror. The center dash info screen is 6.5 inches compared to the 8 touchscreen on the upscale SEL model. But it does offer a new infotainment system that gets along nicely with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and VW MirrorLink smartphone connectivity. At the Consumer Electronics Show, VW displayed an e-Golf with a 9.2 inch screen.

The test car was a top-of-line SEL Premium. VW advertises a range of 83 miles while the Kia Soul electric goes 93 miles and the Nissan Leaf 84 miles. The test car came in an attractive Pacific Blue, an appropriate color since the e-Golf is, for now, sold only in in select cities on the two coasts and Washington, D.C.

Standard was a 7.2-kw charger that take about four hours to achieve full battery charge using a 240 volt Level 2 charging source. You will want to use one since recharging using standard household current can take 20 hours if the battery is just about out of juice. It is also worth a mention that charging stations are starting to sprout up in many locations in the greater Washington, D.C. area.

With a Level 3 DC fast charge, the battery will reach an 80 percent charge in about a half hour. Punch up the Eco or Eco+ modes and you can go further at the sacrifice of some acceleration.

One nice touch worth talking about. Designers put the batteries under the floor, so they do not eat up luggage and cargo capacity. In fact, it is identical to the non-electric Golf, or a robust 52.7 cubic feet with the back seats folded.

Drive wise, VW has certainly achieved its goal of coming out with an electric Golf that drives like any other Golf, and that is a good thing. Except, of course when you start up and only a light tells you you’re good to go and not the engine. For there is no engine, of course.

There is enough power here to keep up with traffic, handling is excellent, and virtually everything inside is the same with the exception of the gauge where the tach is normally housed. Instead, this one tells the driver how much power he or she is using and the how effective the regenerative braking is.

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A 115-hp electric motor and 199 lb-ft of torque makes your trip to work a gas station free event, except for a stop for the morning fog lifter.

But with predictions that low gas prices will be around a while, plus the ever present “range anxiety,” sales of all electric cars have yet to take off.

The Electric Drive Transportation Institute puts sales at about 3 percent of all cars so far this year. Even seasoned “car guys” that I have talked to say they keep a close eye on how many miles can be driven before the juice is juiced as it were. Surveys show that many electric car owners also own something else for longer weekend trips.

Yet I still believe that as driving range continues to increase with new technology and better batteries, we will see more and more electric cars on the road. For instance, the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt is said by its maker to offer a 200 mile driving range.

There is a great deal of interest in electric cars. An older gent who drives a big Ram pickup, asked, “What was that little car you had the other day?” Told it was an all-electric hatch, he wanted to know all about it.

Price wise, frugal shoppers might want to check out the SE model that starts at $29,815. The SEL Premium carries a base of $35,595. Add in $820 for transportation and you are looking at what, for some, might be a hefty $36,415. That is without any tax credits it should be pointed out.

The SEL Premium will get you the bigger infotainment screen, LED headlamps, navi, among other upgrades from the SE.

If you have a relatively short commute and your company has a charger of two, the electric Golf makes for a dandy commuter car that will only get better over time.

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